Comic Seth Rogen defends satirising North Korean leader in The Interview

Cast member Seth Rogen poses during premiere of the film The Interview in Los Angeles, California on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Cast member Seth Rogen poses during premiere of the film The Interview in Los Angeles, California on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor-director Seth Rogen defended the choice to parody North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in raunchy comedy The Interview, the movie that sparked a real-life threat from the country and is suspected as the possible cause of a damaging cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Rogen, who wrote, produced and directed the movie with film-making partner Evan Goldberg, told ABC show Good Morning America on Monday that he had not anticipated the media storm surrounding the film.

"I don't know if the hacking honestly is because of our movie, definitively or not. I know that it has been the centre of a lot of media attention lately," he said.

"The movie itself is very silly and wasn't meant to be controversial in any way," he added.

In November, Sony Pictures' computer network was crippled by an attack by hackers who stole and released five films, employee data and internal emails. Reuters has not been able to confirm the documents' authenticity.

People close to the investigation have told Reuters that North Korea is a principal suspect, but a North Korean diplomat has denied his country was involved.

Pyongyang denounced The Interview last June as "undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war."

Rogen said on Monday the film goes to great lengths to separate the regime ruling North Korea from the North Korean people themselves, saying they are "victims of a horrible situation."

E-mails released by the hackers shed light on Sony's internal debate about the film, showing that Sony Corp chief executive officer Kazuo Hirai ordered that the movie be toned down after North Korea complained.

Rogen objected but complied before the cyber attack. "With every movie we do, there's a conversation creatively about what happens, but ultimately I'm 100 per cent behind the finished product of the movie," Rogen said, when asked about the changes he had to make.

Last week a Sony Corp official told Reuters that Hirai rarely reviews specific scenes in films.

The Interview, scheduled for release on Dec 25, follows flamboyant TV host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco, and his hapless producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen), who score an interview with the elusive Kim. The duo are recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim, but not without a series of comic obstacles filled with crude, male-centric humour. Reuters